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Public Eye



Back when I was a kid, my older sister Kathy was picked to be on the flag team.

We revered her for her honored position. Every morning before school started, Kathy was one of six superpatriots who solemnly marched the flag to its pole and with colors and a drumroll, and hoisted it to fly for another day. We worried obsessively about the Worst Thing Imaginable: What if the flag accidentally touched the ground? It never happened.

When we said the Pledge of Allegiance, we still used the accepted old term "indivisible," as in "One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" (by that time the indivisible replacement, "under God," was already being used in some public schools, though, I don't know why, not in ours).

Some of us grade-schoolers tripped up on that tricky word -- indivisible -- but the message was clear: We were all on the same American team. God really didn't have anything to do with it. The gesture was about honoring our heritage, our united past, our united future.

Now, just a few decades later, we can eat the flag in candy form, we can wear the flag as underwear, we can even fly the flag on our gas-guzzling SUVs until that poor thing is a ratty, tatty, dirty mess. The president won't strike us down for letting the hallowed flag touch the ground, after all. Thanks, capitalism!

This Independence Day, let us honor our local patriots and give a nudge to those who need a little help.

In Colorado, in this Dry Summer, we've watched strong people stepping up to the plate. Firefighters, hundreds of them, have come from across the country to brave their lives for us at the fire line.

And in the case of the citizenry, during a year when we all hoped for blowout fireworks displays, nary a complaint about cancellations and bans have been aired. The past week, Colorado Springs has been eerily devoid of the sounds of illegal firecrackers. Way to go, fellow patriots!

The Pikes Peak Range Riders saw the sense in canceling their 53-year-old annual male-only outing due to the danger.

In a June 30 story in The Gazette, Range Riders president Frank Black was quoted saying, "It's just so dry up in the high country. Our tradition just wasn't worth the risk to the public lands and people of Colorado."

We disagree with their all-male member policy (so boring!) but we love Black!

We wish we could say the same about the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, which, with the blessing of the Colorado Springs City Council, proceeded, come snow, sleet or 100-year-old forest burn, with its annual race to the top of smoky Pikes Peak.

You would think the gearheads would have had a little more respect for the mountain, if not for the people living nearby whose lives have been one long waiting game as fires have ravaged the area in weeks past. But who are we kidding? Thanks to the City, and what will likely be a hefty cost to taxpayers, fire protection was on standby.

Speaking of the City, last year, Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace declared Dec. 15 Bill of Rights Day, designed to highlight the importance of the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. While the proclamation was honorable, it doesn't go nearly far enough.

In response to draconian policies that have oozed into our way of life post9-11, cities across the country have begun to adopt resolutions denouncing the USA Patriot Act and any other policies that threaten key rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens and noncitizens.

As it stands now, the federal government has the ability to arrest and detain you without charge and deny you access to an attorney (see "Imprisoned in the USA," page 13); invade and ransack your homes at will; and snoop on your Internet use, e-mail and telephone records.

On the East Coast, cities like Northampton, Amherst, Leverett and Cambridge, Mass. are fighting back, demanding that federal and state law enforcement work through designated committees when conducting investigations within the cities' jurisdictions. Even Denver has enacted a resolution in support of civil liberties, as have Ann Arbor, Mich., and Berkeley, Calif.

Colorado Springs leaders would be right to do the same here.

As our forefathers taught us, patriotism is born of courage, and nourished with the conviction of doing the right thing.


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